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The Meme-Worthy Judge of Silicon Valley’s Titans

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, April 21, 2015

IN 2011, DURING a tense court hearing between two of the world’s biggest gadget makers—Apple had brought a suit against Samsung, alleging the South Korean company had “slavishly” copied its iPhone and iPad to produce its Samsung Galaxy line of products—Judge Lucy Koh held up both companies’ tablets above her head and asked a Samsung lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan, if she could tell which one was which.

After an uncomfortable beat, Sullivan—who also happens to be a former Stanford Law School dean—responded, “Not at this distance, your honor.” She stood at a podium about 10 feet away.

Just another day in Judge Koh’s courtroom. In Silicon Valley, new tech constantly butts up against old laws—and companies are always trying to find legal loopholes that give them an advantage. It falls to Koh, 46, with five years on the bench in US District Court in San Jose, to give the tech elite a stern talking-to. And Koh’s rulings on cases relating to patent infringement, privacy, and wage conspiracy don’t just influence the big-name firms that test the boundaries of the law. They affect every one of those firms’ users, which explains why Koh has garnered so much attention for her decisions.

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